Category Archives: Ira Levin

Golden Opportunity*

I’ll bet you know the feeling. An opportunity comes along, and it seems like the proverbial answer to a prayer. Or your credit line at your bank is increased, just when you’re planning to get a car or some new furniture. It’s a great feeling, isn’t it?

But beware. Those pieces of good fortune have to be handled carefully. That’s certainly true in real life, and if crime fiction is anything to go by, it’s true there, too. And when things go wrong in a crime novel, they can go very wrong indeed.

For example, in Agatha Christie’s Death in the Clouds, we are introduced to Lady Cicely Horbury. She’s a former chorus girl who married Lord Stephen Horbury. At first, all went well enough. But Lady Horbury has developed a gambling problem, so she’s incurred a lot of debt. And she uses cocaine – another costly habit. Then, she finds a solution that she thinks will work. She meets Marie Morisot, AKA Madame Giselle, a Paris moneylender, who agrees to lend to her. It starts with small enough sums that Lady Horbury can repay. Then, Madame Giselle lends her larger sums – as much as Lady Horbury wants. In fact, as she later tells Hercule Poirot,
 

‘‘It seemed like a miracle at the time.’’
 

Then, the time comes when Lady Horbury can’t repay her debt. That’s when Madame Giselle threatens to use her ‘collateral’ – private information that she intends to give to Lord Stephen. Now, Lady Horbury is desperate, and Madame Giselle is unyielding. That’s the situation when Madame Giselle is murdered aboard a flight that Lady Horbury is also taking. So, she becomes a ‘person of interest’ as Poirot investigates.

Robert Colby’s novella No Experience Necessary is the story of Glenn Hadlock. He’s recently been released from prison, and he knows that, because he’s an ex-convict, his opportunities are very limited. But he’s got to pay the bills. So, he starts looking for whatever sort of job he can get.  One day he sees an advertisement that especially interests him. Wealthy Victor Scofield is looking for a bodyguard/escort/chauffer for his wife, Eileen. Scofield is permanently disabled, so he can’t leave the house. But, as he tells Hadlock during the interview, he doesn’t want to restrict his wife similarly. Hadlock gets the job; and, at first, all goes very well. The position comes with a nice apartment, use of the Scofield cars, and a good salary. It’s not long, though, before things start to go wrong. And Hadlock soon learns that this job is fraught with a great deal of danger.

Walter and Joanna Eberhart get what they think is a golden opportunity when they discover the small suburban town of Stepford, Connecticut. The taxes are low, the schools are good, and the housing is affordable. So, the Eberharts and their two children make the move from New York City to Stepford. At first, all goes well. The family settles in, the children make new friends, and the house is everything they hoped it would be. But all is not as it seems. It starts when Joanna’s new friend, Bobbie Markowe, suspects that something might be very wrong with the town. At first, Joanna doesn’t believe her. But as time goes by, more and more things happen that suggest that Bobbie might be right. If she is, then something sinister is lurking beneath Stepford’s picture-perfect surface.

In Pascal Garnier’s novella How’s the Pain, we meet twenty-one-year-old Bernard Ferrand. He doesn’t have a university education or clear career goals. In fact, he’s a bit aimless. He gets what seems to be the perfect opportunity when ageing contract killer Simon Marechall offers him a job. Marechall wants Ferrand to serve as his driver for one last trip to the French coast, where he has some business to do. Ferrand doesn’t know what his new employer’s business is at first, but it’s an opportunity he can’t pass up. So, he goes along with the plan. Before he knows it, he’s in much, much deeper than he thought, and involved with a very dangerous business.

And then there’s Sinéad Crowley’s Can Anybody Help Me? In it, Yvonne and Gerry Mulhern and their newborn daughter, Róisín, move from London to Dublin, so that Gerry can take advantage of a very attractive job opportunity. At first, it seems like the right choice. Then, things start to go wrong. For one thing, Gerry works a lot, so he can’t do much baby minding or housework. And Yvonne is exhausted from the work of taking care of Róisín mostly on her own. What’s worse, she doesn’t really know anyone in Dublin. So, there’s no-one to confide in or to pitch in and help. Then Yvonne discovers Netmammy, an online forum for new mums. It seems like the perfect solution; Yvonne finds new friends among the other forum members, and gets answers to many of her questions. All goes well until one of the members seems to go ‘off the grid.’ Yvonne’s concerned enough to go to the police about it, but there’s really nothing they can do. Then, the body of an unidentified woman is discovered in an empty apartment. Detective Sergeant (DS) Claire Boyle investigates, and finds that the woman’s description is similar enough to that of Yvonne’s online friend that it could be the same person. If so, what does that mean for Netmammy? If not, then who is the dead woman? In the end, we learn that sometimes, what seems like a perfect solution…isn’t.

And that’s the thing about those golden opportunities. You have to be very careful before taking them. And even then, they don’t always work out as planned…

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of an Ian Hunter song.

14 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Ira Levin, Pascal Garnier, Robert Colby, Sinéad Crowley

He Was Goin’ to See a Play*

As this is posted, it’s 65 years since Agatha Christie’s play, The Mousetrap, opened in London. It’s still running, as far as I’m aware (please, someone correct me if I’m wrong). In part, it shows how well suited the live stage is as a context for telling a good crime story. That’s no doubt part of the reason for which there are so many plays that involve crime and criminals.

Christie herself wrote several of them. Some of her more famous plays (besides The Mousetrap) are Witness For the Prosecution, The Yellow Iris, and Spider’s Web. And Christie fans can tell you that her interest in theatre comes through in several of her novels and short stories, too. For instance, parts of the plots of both Mrs. McGinty’s Dead and Sleeping Murder focus on plays. And there are plenty of references to acting, stage work, playwriting, and so on throughout Christie’s stories.

But Christie is by no means the only one who’s written well-known crime and thriller plays. There are plenty of other playwrights who’ve explored those topics in their work. Several of Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, are very much about murder and other crimes. Many more modern plays are as well.

For instance, Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men goes behind the scenes as a jury deliberates its verdict in a murder trial. As the deliberations begin, the group is almost unanimous in finding the defendant guilty. But ‘almost’ is the operative word here. There is a single juror who dissents, and this leads to a debate about what ‘counts’ as reasonable doubt, what the evidence really might mean, and whether anyone else might have committed the crime. Among other things, this play shows one of the differences between telling a story in, say, a novel, and creating a stage story. The focus in the story is on the interactions among the jurors. So, dialogue is extremely important – arguably more than are the details of the physical setting.

Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play Gas Light (AKA Angel Street) concerns Jack Manningham and his wife, Bella. As fans of the play and its later film adaptation know, the story follows this couple as Bella becomes more and more anxious and on edge. In fact, she begins to wonder whether she might be going insane. And her husband does nothing to reassure her. In fact, he does his best to convince her that something really is wrong with her. But is that true? And if it’s not true, what reason would Jack have to want his wife to be incapacitated? This play does involve a murder. But mostly, it’s a psychological drama that explores the what happens when people begin to doubt their sanity.

In Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, we meet Sidney Bruhl, a playwright who hasn’t had much success lately. Then, he tells his wife, Myra, that he’s gotten a very promising play from one of his students, Clifford Anderson. In fact, Bruhl talks about killing Anderson so that he can steal the play. He claims he’s not being serious, and invites Anderson for a coaching session to improve the play. Needless to say, this doesn’t turn out to be a simple mentoring session. If you’ve seen the play, then you know that it’s got all sorts of twists and turns. What’s interesting, too, is that it’s a play-within-a-play. Like the play itself, Anderson’s script is a thriller called Deathtrap, has only one set, and involves five characters.

There’s also Warren Manzi’s Perfect Crime. Written in 1987 (and still running), it tells the story of the murder of wealthy psychiatrist W. Harrison Brent. His body disappears before police detective James Ascher can begin any investigation. Still, Ascher suspects that the victim’s widow, Margaret, is responsible. Getting the evidence, though, is a different matter. And this is a complicated case. I won’t give away spoilers, but there are questions of identity, all sorts of motives, and other sub-plots besides the main murder plot.

There are, of course, many other plays that focus on crimes. Some are whodunits, some are psychological thrillers, and others are comic-caper plays. There are even mystery plays in which audiences participate. And, of course, there are many, many novels in which a play is the context for a real-life murder (Simon Brett’s Charles Paris series comes to my mind, and there are plenty of others).

There’s something about the immediacy of the stage that allows for the sort of tension and suspense that can make a crime story memorable. So, it’s little wonder that crime fiction is often told through that medium. The sort of writing that makes a crime/thriller play work well is different to the sort of writing that makes for a memorable crime novel. For instance, there’s a strong focus in a play on character interactions, on visuals, and timing. And there’s less opportunity for the playwright to set the scene and context than there is for the novelist to do so. It’s a different way of telling a story, and when it’s done well, a crime/thriller play can be gripping. Which ones have stayed with you?

ps. What you see in the ‘photo is the programme from a play that Mr. COAMN and I recently saw. Thanks to the Star Repertory Theatre for an excellent performance!

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Blow Us All Away.

 

  

 

17 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Ira Levin, Patrick Hamilton, Reginald Rose, Warren Manzi, William Shakespeare

Lost in the Supermarket*

As this is posted, it’s 101 years since the opening of the first self-service market (a Piggly Wiggly store located in Memphis). Since that time, of course, supermarkets have become fixtures in many places, and there is a good reason for that. It’s a lot more efficient to buy all of one’s food products (and often a lot more, too) in one place. Supermarket chains can buy in bulk, too, and that can reduce prices for the consumer.

Because they’re such integral parts of today’s shopping landscape, we shouldn’t be surprised that there are a lot of supermarkets in crime fiction. They’re really effective settings for meetings between characters, for creating a sense of setting and atmosphere, and more. And they can even be suspenseful.

But they haven’t always been welcome. For instance, in Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side, Miss Marple investigates the murder of Heather Badcock, who is poisoned during a fête. The victim and her husband live in the then-new council housing in the village of St. Mary Mead, and the that’s only one of the changes that’s come to the town. The supermarket is another. Here’s what Miss Hartnall, one of the villagers, says about it:
 

‘‘All these great packets of breakfast cereal instead of cooking a child a proper breakfast of bacon and eggs. And you’re expected to take a basket round yourself and go looking for things – it takes a quarter of an hour sometimes to find all one wants – and usually made up of inconvenient sizes, too much or too little. And then a long queue waiting to pay as you go out. Most tiring.’’
 

Admittedly, the new supermarket isn’t the reason for Heather Badcock’s murder. But Miss Hartnall offers an interesting perspective on this major change in shopping.

Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives takes place mostly in the fictional small town of Stepford, Connecticut. Joanna and Walter Eberhart and their two children have moved there from New York City, in order to take advantage of lower taxes, less expensive housing, and better schools. All goes well at first. But Joanna soon notices that none of the other women in town seem to have outside interests; they all seem to be completely involved in their homes and domesticity. One day, for instance, she’s at Center Market, the local supermarket:
 

‘Joanna looked…into the cart of another woman going slowly past her. My God, she thought, they even fill their carts neatly. And she looked at her own: a jumble of boxes and cans and jars. A guilty impulse to put it in order prodded her, but I’m damned if I will, she thought…’
 

At first, it just seems like an oddity. But slowly, Joanna and her new best friend, Bobbie Markowe, begin to suspect that something is very, very wrong in Stepford. And they turn out to be right.

In a similar vein, science fiction writer Zack Walker decides to move his family to the suburb of Valley Forest Estates in Linwood Barclay’s Bad Move. Walker’s convinced that the suburbs are safer, and persuades his wife, Sarah, to fall in with his plans. Things don’t work out as he thought, though. For one thing, the new home they’ve bought needs several repairs. When Walker goes to the sales office of the housing development, he witnesses a loud argument between one of the sales executives and local environmentalist Samuel Spender. Later, he finds Spender’s body near a local creek. Now, he’s unwittingly mixed up in that murder. As if that’s not enough, he and Sarah go to a grocery store one day. They’re leaving the store, when he sees a handbag left behind in a shopping cart. Thinking it’s his wife’s, Walker takes it and stashes it in the car. Then, Sarah produces her own handbag. Walker’s decisions about what to do next draw him even more deeply into some dark things going on in Valley Forest Estates.

Craig Johnson’s Sheriff Walt Longmire finds an innovative use for a local supermarket in Death Without Company. In one small plot thread of the novel, he needs to find enough people to serve as jurors for an upcoming series of hearings. So, he instructs his deputy, Victoria ‘Vic’ Moretti, to wait outside the supermarket and ‘collect’ shoppers to serve as talis jurors:
 

‘I watched as my…deputy accosted a middle-aged man…copied down information from his driver’s license and informed him that he needed to get over to the courthouse pronto or be faced with contempt of court. ‘Well, there’s another notch on my Glock…’’ ‘Hey, there are worse places for stakeouts. At least we’ve got plenty of supplies.’’
 

It’s a very practicable solution to the jury-pool problem, even if it does interrupt the day for several shoppers.

And then there’s Håkan Östlundh’s The Intruder. In that novel, Malin Andersson, her husband Henrik Kjellander, and their two children, Ellen and Axel, return to their home on the Swedish island of Fårö after a two-month absence. When they get to the house, they see that the tenants who’ve been staying there have made a huge mess. What’s worse, several family photographs have been deliberately disfigured. It’s unsettling, and Malin calls the police. There’s not much they can do at first, other than take down the details, but police detective Fredrik Bronan and his team promise to look into the matter. Then one day, Malin is in the local supermarket, when she gets the strong feeling that she’s being followed. She looks around quickly, but doesn’t see anyone. And the store employees aren’t much help. But this seems related to the damage to the house, and to a previous incident in which Malin noticed a stranger watching her as she dropped her children off at their schools. Then, other, more ominous things happen. Now, Bronan and his team take this threat seriously. They’ll have to find out who’s targeted the family and why before anyone is seriously hurt or worse.

See what I mean? Supermarkets are woven into our lives. So it’s little wonder they’re also woven into crime fiction.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by the Clash.

24 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Craig Johnson, Håkan Östlundh, Ira Levin, Linwood Barclay

Take All My Preconceptions*

We arguably have a more global society now than ever before. This means that most countries have a diverse population – some more diverse than others. And that means we often encounter people from lots of different backgrounds.

So far, so good. I’d guess most of us believe, at least in principle, that we should be able to work with all sorts of different people. The problem is, it doesn’t always work out that way in day-to-day encounters. Part of the reason for that is that we often have preconceptions of people that we don’t even know we have. They may be unconscious, but they can be no less hurtful for that. In fact, they can end up creating a group of ‘second class’ citizens. To see what I mean in real life, you really should read this excellent post from Marina Sofia, who blogs at Finding Time to Write. G’head, read it now. I’ll wait.

Back now? Thanks. The same thing can happen in crime fiction, even when the characters involved aren’t consciously xenophobic, or even consciously bigoted. It’s simply a set of assumptions that frames those characters’ reactions to others.

For instance, in Agatha Christie’s Hickory Dickory Dock (AKA Hickory Dickory Death), Hercule Poirot investigates when Celia Austin, a resident of a student hostel, is murdered. Her death turns out to be connected to a number of other strange and unsettling events at the hostel, and Poirot works with Inspector Sharpe to find out the truth. That involves interviewing the other people who live at the hostel. Here’s what Sharpe says to Poirot about it:
 

‘‘You met some of them the other night and I wonder if you could give me any useful dope – on the foreigners, anyway.’
‘You think I am a good judge of foreigners? But, mon cher, there were no Belgians among them.’
‘No Belg – oh, I see what you mean. You mean that as you’re a Belgian, all the other nationalities are as foreign to you as they are to me. But that’s not quite true, is it? I mean you probably know more about the Continental types than I do – though not the Indians and the West Africans and that lot.’’
 

It’s not spoiling the story to say that Sharpe doesn’t assume the killer has to be someone who’s not English. He doesn’t use cruel slurs, and so on. But his assumptions are there nonetheless.

Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives follows the fortunes of the Eberhart family when they move from New York City to the small town of Stepford, Connecticut. What seems to be the right move to an idyllic town turns into a nightmare as Joanna Eberhart and her new friend, Bobbie Markowe, discover some very dark secrets that the town is hiding. At one point, Joanna has a conversation with one of the residents of the town, who tells her:
 

‘‘A black family is moving in on Gwendolyn Lane. But I think it’s good, don’t you?’’
 

Admittedly, this novel was first published in 1972. Still, it’s interesting to see how those assumptions come through.

Sometimes, people’s assumptions are clear, or seem clear, even without words. For instance, in one plot thread of Elizabeth George’s With No One as Witness, there’s a series of three murders, all of young boys. The police haven’t ignored the case, but they haven’t made a lot of progress, either. And the media hasn’t paid a whole lot of attention. Then, there’s another murder. Unlike the other victims, this boy is white. Now, the media starts to devote a lot more time and energy to the murders. And there’s a lot of talk that the police are only ramping up their efforts because this newest victim is white. Whether that’s true of each individual journalist and police officer, it seems to show a general assumption that some deaths are more meaningful than others. And that isn’t lost on the police, who return to the older cases and try to put the puzzle together.

Jen Shieff’s The Gentlemen’s Club takes place in 1950’s Auckland. The real action in the story begins when a ship from England docks. One of the passengers is Istvan Zieglar, a refugee from Hungary who wants to start a new life in New Zealand. He’s heard about jobs at Auckland Harbour, and has come to help build the new bridge there. He soon gets involved in a dark mystery surrounding a local children’s home called Brodie House, and its connection to some terrible tragedies. Along the way, Zieglar has to get used to life in his new home. For one thing, he isn’t fluent in English, although he can get by. But, because he sometimes doesn’t understand what people say, his workmates assume that he,
 

‘‘…understands nothing…thick as a brick…’’
 

In fact, the assumption that he can’t do the work costs him the job. The foreman on the job has some other assumptions, too:
 

‘‘…a team of Italians are due here to assist with girders D, E, and F. Not sure what a bunch of Dago tunnellers know about steel girders, but the bosses hired them in their wisdom and we’ll just have to make the most of them.’’
 

Here, it’s very clear that certain assumptions are made about New Zealand workers vs workers from other places.

There’s also Kalpana Swaminathan’s Greenlight, which features her sleuth, retired Mumbai police detective Lalli. In the novel, a small slum known as Kandewadi is the focus when several children who live there disappear and are later found dead. The media and the police don’t do very much about it. That, in itself, reveals assumptions about the lives of the people who live in Kandewadi. Finally, after several such deaths, the media pick the story up, and Inspector Savio, who regularly consults with Lalli, takes up the investigation. And it’s interesting to see how assumptions about life in slums plays a role in the story.

And then there’s Paddy Richardson’s Hunting Blind. In it, newly-minted psychiatrist Stephanie Anderson gets a new client, Elisabeth Clark, who is dealing with the long-ago abduction of her sister, Gracie. Elisabeth’s story is eerily similar to Stephanie’s own. Seventeen years earlier, her sister, Gemma, was also abducted. Now, Stephanie decides to lay her ghosts to rest, and find the person who wrought so much havoc. So, she travels from Dunedin, where she lives and works, to her hometown of Wanaka. Along the way, she meets a hunting guide, Dan, who offers to take her out into the bush. Reluctantly, Stephanie agrees. It’s soon clear that she has preconceptions about Dan:
 

‘‘Wine, please. White wine?’ [Anderson]
‘I can manage both colours. Types as well. So. What type of white?’
He’s grinning again. She sees he’s teasing her.
‘Pinot gris?’ Huh, I guarantee he hasn’t got that.
‘Central Otago?’
‘Uh, yes. Thanks.’
He opens a bottle, fills a glass and hands it to her. ‘I believe I’m making progress.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I hope that I’m adequately demonstrating to you that all hunters aren’t blokey yobbos.’
‘I didn’t say they were.’
‘You didn’t actually say it, no.’’

 

It’s an interesting example of the way we can have preconceptions without even being conscious of it.

And that’s the thing about such assumptions and frameworks for thinking. They shape our thoughts and, therefore, our interactions, even when we’re not aware of it.

Thanks, Marina Sofia, for the inspiration. Now, please, do go check out Finding Time to Write. Excellent reviews, thoughtful commentary, and fine poetry await you.

 
 
 

*NOTE:  The title of this post is a line from Orianthi Panagaris’ Courage.

10 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Elizabeth George, Ira Levin, Jen Shieff, Kalpana Swaminathan, Paddy Richardson

Rows of Houses That Are All the Same*

One of the most important socioeconomic changes of the post-WWII world was the growth of the suburb – the commuter town. The suburb was billed as close enough to the city for access, but with lower taxes, more affordable housing, and even better schools. And people moved to suburbs en masse.

Suburban life gave rise to a whole new sort of culture – and a new sort of crime novel. We certainly see it in a lot of contemporary domestic noir novels. But it’s woven into other sorts of crime fiction, too.

In Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party, for example, much of the action takes place in the suburban town of Woodleigh Common. It’s the sort of place where people come and go (although there are people who’ve been there a long time), and where people tend to commute to their jobs. Christie’s fictional detective story writer, Ariadne Oliver, has been invited there to visit her friend, Judith Butler, and Judith’s daughter, Miranda. During her visit, Mrs. Oliver attends a Hallowe’en party intended for the young people of the area. The party ends in disaster when one guest, thirteen-year-old Joyce Reynolds, is murdered. Mrs. Oliver isn’t an overly fearful type of person, but the incident leaves her badly shaken. So, she asks Hercule Poirot to look into the matter, and he agrees. Poirot discovers that, on the day she was killed, Joyce boasted of having seen a murder. Someone overheard that remark and was so afraid of being found out that the only option seemed to be killing the girl. In the process of finding out who killed Joyce, Poirot uncovers a past murder, and some ugly secrets, in Woodleigh Common.

Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives takes place in Stepford, Connecticut, a suburban town with access to New York City. Walter and Joanna Eberhart move to Stepford with their two children, Pete and Kim. They’re hoping to take advantage of lower taxes, good schools, and better prices on property. At first, all goes well enough, and the children settle in at their school. Then, Joanna’s new friend, Bobbie Markowe, begins to suspect that something is very, very wrong in Stepford. At first, Joanna doesn’t agree. But it doesn’t take long, or many incidents, to convince Joanna that her friend is right. As she starts to ask more questions, Joanna learns that there may be real danger in Stepford. Then, a frightening event proves just how much danger there really is in that supposedly peaceful town.

In Ruth Rendell’s To Fear a Painted Devil, we are introduced to Patrick and Tamsin Selby. They live in the attractive suburban community of Linchester, and have settled in there. Then, the Selbys decide to celebrate Tamsin’s twenty-seventh birthday with an outdoor party.  They invite all of the local people, and it promises to be a fun event. During the party, a group of wasps begins to annoy the guests. So, Patrick climbs up a ladder to one of the eaves of the house, where the wasps have built their nest. As he’s trying to get rid of the nest, he’s badly stung.  A few days later, he dies. At first, Patrick’s death is put down to a massive allergic reaction. But, Dr. Max Greenleaf, who treated the victim, isn’t so sure that’s true. So, he starts to ask some questions. As he gets closer to the truth, we learn that the beautiful little suburb of Linchester has been hiding some dark secrets.

Science fiction novels Zack Walker learns how dangerous suburbs can be in Linwood Barclay’s Bad Move. Walker convinces his wife, Sarah, to move from the city where they live to the suburban development of Valley Forest Estates. He’s sure that life there will be more peaceful and much safer than it is in the city. Besides, it’ll be much less expensive. The Walker family makes the move, and, although the children aren’t happy with their new school, everyone settles in. Then one day, Walker goes to the Valley Forest sales office to complain about some problems he’s having with their new house. During his visit, he witnesses a loud argument between one of the Valley Forest executives and local environmental activist Samuel Spender. Later that day, Walker finds Spender’s body at a nearby creek. Against his better judgement, Walker gets drawn into the mystery, and finds a web of fraud, murder and more. Valley Forest Estates certainly doesn’t turn out to be as safe and friendly as it seems on the surface.

And then there’s Robert Crais’ Lullaby Town. Famous Hollywood director Peter Alan Nelson hires LA PI Elvis Cole to find his ex-wife, Karen, and their son, Toby. It seems that Nelson and his wife had parted ways years ago, but now, he wants to be a real father to his son. The only problem is, Karen and Toby have disappeared. At first, Cole is reluctant to take the case. After all, people can have any number of reasons for not wanting to be found. But he’s finally convinced to look into the matter. It doesn’t take a lot of work for him to discover that Karen and Toby moved to a small Connecticut suburb of New York City. When he finds her, he learns that Karen has a solid job in a local bank and no interest at all in reuniting with her ex. Cole also discovers that Karen is working for some very dangerous people who do not want to lose their ‘bank connection.’ Now, Karen and Toby are in real danger, so Cole is going to have to protect them and try to convince them to at least meet with Nelson. He may have a persuasive way, but he’s going to need help from his PI partner, Joe Pike, to go up against the Mob members who are after Karen.

The suburbs may certainly have their advantages. And they can be lovely places to live. But safe? Not as much as you’d think (right, fans of Claudia Piñeiro’s Thursday Night Widows?).

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s Pleasant Valley Sunday, made famous by the Monkees.

 

20 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Claudia Piñeiro, Ira Levin, Linwood Barclay, Robert Crais, Ruth Rendell